Helping the community has always been her driving force and now Shana’s found the ultimate way to do it.

Everything in life seems to be a race. Hurry and find your life partner, hurry and get your own place, get on the property ladder, excel in your career, start a family, be successful. It’s tiring! I’m 41 and after years of putting my efforts into other people’s companies, I have finally launched my own. But getting to a point where you understand your passion enough to really go for it, in my opinion, just cannot be rushed.

It’s in my nature to help. If something needs to be done I’ll roll my sleeves up, get proactive and do the necessary to move things along. So when my commuter train operator into London announced they would be changing the timetable for the worst, it was just not in my nature to simply grumble. This was going to impact me and my family so I had to do something.

The end result was a petition that received almost 4k signatures in a short space of time, local press and BBC radio interviews, and a meeting at the local MP’s office with the train operator. I worked closely with the rail groups and the train operator to amend the timetable. Following this, I was invited to join the Passenger Panel group which meant representing my local station at meetings at their London office. It was so empowering to get that response. I soon became involved in other small community projects as it’s something I feel passionate about.

Around the same time I became an ambassador for a programme to encourage and retain BAME (black and ethnic minority) talent in the Marketing & Comms industry. This involved regular meetings and calls with the founders and other ambassadors, as well as following up on our own individual contributions to the collaborative effort.

I was helping. I was part of something that could, in some way, make a little bit of a difference and it felt amazing. But all this while I was being a mum, a wife and a full time employee. Time is precious. Finding time to breathe in between everything was becoming increasingly difficult and something had to give. I was devastated. How would I choose between these things that meant so much to me? In the end I decided to take a less active role with the BAME initiative and I stayed on the rail company’s passenger panel for three years.

Making the decision was really tough and even now I wish I hadn’t needed to. I kept thinking to myself, wouldn’t it be great if others could do something for their community and feel the way I felt, but without having to worry about time. And this was it. This was the moment everything came together and the idea for my business was born. My passion for getting things done and helping was there all along, but I needed these experiences to help me bring it all together into a solution and a business idea.

It took two years to develop and finally on 1st May 2020 I launched Generosity Bank, a UK-wide platform that connects volunteers with small businesses in their area for skills based volunteering. People can volunteer their professional skills to help make a difference in their communities, so they can feel the sense of pride and contribution that I did. As any volunteering is done on a short term and one-off basis, it puts the volunteer in control of their time right from the start. It’s skills based, so in most cases with the use of today’s technology, a volunteer won’t even need to leave home to help out.

This means that anyone who wants to make a contribution to their community is able to do so. They may be on maternity or paternity leave, retired, or just a person with a little time to spare and an expertise that is in demand. Business owners often have a real passion for what they do but a skills gap in certain areas like tech, accounting or legal issues, which can hold them back – and this is a way that they can get some help. Focussed time like this enables great things to be achieved.

And of course if you’re helping your community you’re also helping yourself. Because if the small businesses in your community thrive you will have access to much more diversity in shops and services in your area, while helping to revive the economy post-pandemic.

Small business owners are hugely important to our UK economy and they contributed 48% of 2019 employment in the UK (more than large businesses at 40%). Those small business owners are “let’s get shit done” people like me. Without their services our everyday lives would be very different.

So if you’re a small business in need of a little help or advice, sign up and search by local authority to find that help in your area. And if you have valuable expertise, a little time on your hands and the urge to give back to your community, here’s a great way to do so.

Looking back, I fully realise that was it not for my earlier experiences I probably would never have realised my passion and built it into a business idea. This is why I feel it’s so important to give yourself time and space to allow life and it’s experiences to happen. Don’t rush or follow timelines made up by other people, just be open and embrace your own individual journey.

Words: Shana Doherty
Photo : Jordan Marquez @jordzphotography